The PRCA Practice Guide ‘Writing for the Media’ is published by Emerald Worldwide. We asked the author, Adrian Wheeler FCIPR, for ten top tips on successful media writing.
1. Clients may prefer B2B and corporate media stories to be dull, but readers don’t. Is there any real difference between a B2B media story and a B2C piece? No.
2. Reporters are taught that all stories are human-interest stories. Who did it? Why? How? Who will benefit? How will it change people’s lives? Who’s the hero? Is there a villain?
3. Don’t let clients pontificate. ‘Corporate happy-speak’ gets swiped or scrolled. Instead, encourage clients to speak like human beings. Why is the topic important to them? Why are they excited? How do they feel? Some clients hate this, but readers love it.
4. Personal narratives beat corporate statements every time. ‘When I visited our outlet last week I had to wait twenty minutes to get into the car-park’ makes us listen. ‘Like-for-like sales will be up by 30 per cent in the fourth quarter’ makes us switch off.
5. Photographs are supposed to be worth a thousand words. More like a million in a visual age. Find some good media photographers (there are plenty about) and let them loose. This goes double for footage.
6. Clients talk about features. They are bound to – it’s their whole life. We have to translate this into benefits – simple statements that mean something to customers idly scanning the media. If it doesn’t jump out as fascinating and relevant, nothing happens.
7. Headlines: all-important. Unless you come up with a good headline the reporter/editor probably won’t even read your story. Clients usually want to see their brand in the headline. Does it belong there?
8. Lead para: who, what, when, where, why, how, how much. Get this right and your story is in with a chance. If not, not. Editors typically use one story in a hundred.
9. Don’t spray and pray. Call and sell your stories in. It takes longer but it works a hundred times better. Writing a good story is only half the battle; getting prominence in a good outlet is the other half.
10. Most branded media think online first. So must we. Headline – lead – picture. Our media customers know their customers don’t usually read beyond the third para. Brevity has always been important in media writing but these days it’s all-important.